Tuesday 22 October 2019

Trick or Treat

d. Ed Boase; w. Geraint Anderson; p. Geraint Anderson, Craig Kelly; cast: Craig Kelly, Dean Lennox Kelly, Maimie McCoy, Frances Barber, Shaun Parkes, Jamie Sives, Jessamine-Bliss Bell

The director of the impressive Blooded, terrible The Mirror and unreleased An American Exorcism does a solid job on this work-for-hire gig for city stockbroker Anderson. It’s a crime thriller with horror trappings, set in Blackpool on Halloween (technically the early hours of 1st November). Former gangster Greg (C Kelly: Corrie) is facing a mid-life crisis – wife, baby, 45th birthday – when his disreputable brother Dan (actual brother DL Kelly: Shameless) turns up with a dead body, followed by two gangsters looking for Dan. Greg is drawn back into a shady, dangerous, violent world he left behind but halfway through starts to doubt the reality of what he is experiencing, partly because of hallucinations which may be psychic ability or a remnant of the pill-popping raver youth he misses. Anderson’s script has some satisfying twists and turns, especially the end. A fine cast includes Kris Marshall as a copper, Jason Flemyng as a taxi driver and Hugo Speer as a comedian on TV. Maeve O’Connell’s great night-time cinematography captures Blackpool’s seedy underbelly perfectly.

Trick or Treat has a limited theatrical release on 25th October 2019 in cinemas in northwest England.

Saturday 19 October 2019

The Witching Hour

d. Adam Evans; w. Neil Morris, Gary Smart; p. Chris Griffiths, Neil Morris, Adam Evans, Gary Smart, Stuart Conran; cast: Kenneth Cranham, Mark Wingett, Simon Bamford, Ian Gelder, Bruce Jones, Corin Silva, Jamila Martin-Wingett, Neil Cole, Gemma Gordon, Ethan McKinley

The fourth Dark Ditties film is the longest and in some ways the most conventional, although it becomes more complex as one considers connections to the other three. A cheesy paranormal investigation TV show films an episode in the same stately home where The Offer took place. On the verge of cancellation, psychic Marvin La’Fantome and cynical Selwyn Parsons have one last chance to recover their ratings – but a real supernatural danger lurks in the shadows for cast and crew. As ever, Morris and Smart’s script creates a set of unpleasant but fascinating characters, brought to life by an exemplary cast, both stock players and newcomers. Magnificent photography by Terrence Wilkins and Ben Halford, a beautiful score by American composer Sean Schafer Hennessy and of course Stuart Conran’s top-notch effects are all part of the hugely enjoyable Dark Ditties brand. Two further titles, Dad and Welcome to Upton, are promised for 2020.

Wednesday 9 October 2019


d. Stuart Brennan; w. George McKlusky; p. Stuart Brennan, Mark Paul Wake; cast: Stuart Brennan, George McKlusky, Mark Paul Wake, Adanna Oji, Austin Caley, Victoria Morrison, Ross Anderson, Jennifer Chippendale

When a squad of soldiers is attacked by werewolves in the Scottish Highlands, comparisons to Dog Soldiers are inevitable – albeit Wolf is set 18 centuries earlier. Brennan’s Roman horror has a team of legionaries and associates searching for missing messengers. After fighting some Picts, they’re stalked by barely-glimpsed, fast-moving beast-men so head back towards Hadrian’s Wall. Much of the film is frustratingly slow and talkie, but the characters are interesting and most of the acting is good. When we eventually see the attackers they’re naked guys with fangs (which contradicts the bipedal wolf pawprints found earlier). Nevertheless this ambitious, high concept horror – legionaries vs lycanthropes – merits a watch, if only for the impressive costumes and Simon Aukes’ top-notch cinematography which incorporates stunning drone shots of the snow-covered landscape. McKlusky is George McCluskey (The Zombie King). Many of the cast also worked with Brennan on Plan Z, The Necromancer and A Christmas Carol. Horrible Histories author Terry Deary was executive producer.

(Four stars.)

Sunday 6 October 2019

A few words about the future

For more than two decades now I’ve been patiently documenting the British Horror Revival. What started out as an interesting collection of distinctively social realist horror films has blossomed and expanded and kept on expanding. So that the comparatively short period covered by my post-2000 British horror masterlist now accounts for about 80% of all UK horror films ever made.

This is insane, clearly. It’s like letting other people write about the Premier League while I write about every other football club in Britain, right down to Sunday morning amateur teams.

I have already written one book, Urban Terrors, covering the British Horror Revival from its late 1990s origins up to the singularity of Mum and Dad, the first UK film released simultaneously in cinemas, on DVD and on VOD. Over the next few years I will be publishing my magnum opus: a complete catalogue of every British horror movie 2000-2019. About 1,050 films spread over three volumes, with a fourth collecting together 300+ incomplete/unreleased features.

I’m ten films away from completing Volume 1 (Volumes 2 and 3 are also mostly complete). I expect to produce that next year. Presumably self-published, unless anyone wants to make me an offer.

Next year. 2020. A new decade.

Here’s the thing. I really don’t want to keep on doing this for another ten years. I’m 51 now. I have other half-written books I want to finish before I die. I have other films I want to watch.

My masterlist will close for good on 31 December 2019. Obviously I will still be discovering films and releases which precede that date for many months to come, filling in gaps and revising data. But any film released on 1 January 2020 or later is outside my remit. I want my life back.

This is where you come in. I’ve spent all this time cataloguing and reviewing these films because Somebody Had To Do It. Unless someone takes the trouble to document these films when they appear, they will be lost to researchers forever. (You can’t rely on the IMDB. Plenty of the films on my list aren’t on the IMDB and many others have incorrect data.)

So this is an open invitation. If anyone wants to take up the mantle of British horror film historian for the next decade, you are very, very welcome. The post is about to become vacant and I would love to see it filled.

It would be up to you what criteria you establish for inclusion on your masterlist; I’m not going to prescribe anything like that. But I will say that this is a big job which requires constant prowling and digging around all corners of the web. You can’t just set up an alert and wait for things to come to you. These films can get released in any medium in any territory. This is a job for someone obsessive who loves looking for stuff and eventually finding it. It can be tedious, but it can also be very rewarding.

Perhaps a group of you want to do this. Perhaps two or more people will take on the gig separately and compete to see who can unearth the information first. I really don’t mind. It’s not up to me. I can give you nothing but my blessing.

But I do hope that someone will take on this mantle. Because otherwise, the recorded history of British horror cinema, from the silent era through the golden age of Hammer and Amicus, and then into the boom years of the early 21st century will suddenly lurch to a halt in 2020. Film historians of the future will have an impossible job trying to find this stuff if no-one records it at the time. What they’ll be left with is an unrepresentative handful of high-profile releases that won’t in any way reflect the actual state of the genre.

And that would be a real shame.